Design Personas and UCD

My University is involved in phase two of JISC‘s Institutional Innovation Programme:

This programme represents a £13.08m investment aimed at supporting existing institutional strategies by providing solutions to institution-wide problems, based upon proven practices, technologies, standards and services. The solutions will act as exemplars to other institutions by demonstrating innovation and good practice, and building knowledge and experience, which can be shared across institutions.

One of those projects is the Academic Social Networking project which is being developed by the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies (CARET) at the University of Cambridge. The project itself “aims to bring some of the affordances of consumer social networks to teaching and learning“.

What is interesting to me, and possibly to other students on the research methods module is that CARET collaborated with Flow Interactive, an external company, to investigate whether commercial user-centric design (UCD) techniques could be transferable and be used within a Higher Education context.

As the research team suggest, user-centric design is different because:

…it explicitly, constructively and actively includes users in the design process from a very early stage.

One of the key features of their particular methodology is the notion of “design personas” and how it enabled them to:

…identified trends or patterns in user behaviours, expectations and motivations, through conducting a combination of diary studies and interviews, and how this formed the basis of our personas. Having these personas enabled us to focus the design effort on supporting user goals. Also, where traditionally a designer might have lists and lists of requirements, personas allow one to prioritize these requirements to the degree these personas would find them important, offering more clarity.

Moreover, the research team at CARET have published their UCD methodology into a rather useful and compelling handbook for us lucky reseachers to peruse and may even offer a new approach to conducting research with our key stakeholders.

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